Mishpatim: Moshiach Makes Sense




    Shifra Vepua

    Mishpatim: Moshiach Makes Sense

    From her letters and conversations with parents they sensed what was happening and didn’t deny their suspicions. But their suggestions, arguments and pleas that she return home bore no fruit. She had made up her mind; George was her soul-mate! It was so obvious, logical and right • By Rabbi Tuvia Bolton • Full Article

    This week’s Torah portion begins with G-d telling Moses: “These are the Mishpatim you should put before them (the Jews): When you buy a Jewish servant etc.”
    In the Torah there are three types of commandments: “Chookim”, “Aidoot” and Mishpatim.
    Chookim” are commandments that make no sense like the prohibition of cooking milk and meat together.  “Aidoot” are commandments that make religious sense like eating Matza to remind us of Passover. ”
    But ‘Mishpatim’, the title of our Torah portion, means logical, practical commandments like don’t kill. So you would think that what follows in this week’s reading would be mishpatim i.e. reasonable laws.

    But surprisingly this week’s reading is filled with aidut and chukim like milk and meat and don’t go to non-Jewish courts, even if they judge according to Torah law” (Rashi 21:1)!!
    So why call it Mishpatim?

    Also there seems to be a grammatical problem in this first sentence. The first sentence begins plural and the following sentence is singular:
    First G-d says to Moses “These are the laws you should put before THEM” (plural). Then if says “When YOU (in the singular), buy a Jewish servant.”

    To understand this here is a story.

    Rabbi Ben-Tzion Grossman is a very devoted and talented Israeli Rabbi that has been bringing Israeli Jews back to their Jewish roots for tens of years.
    Over forty years ago two members of his congregation in Migdal HaEmek; a young married Israeli couple (let’s call them Mr. and Mrs. Gold) went to visit relatives in Johannesburg South Africa who told them a sad story that was rocking the Jewish community there.
    It so happened that the town Shochet (ritual slaughterer), a truly G-d fearing orthodox Jew, had an eighteen-year-old daughter who after graduating High school, decided to enter University to learn sociology.
    She excelled in her studies there and after completing her Master’s degree with honors, began her doctoral thesis.
    Because apartheid was becoming an issue in those days, she decided to do her thesis on Arab-Jewish relations in Israel and came to the conclusion that she would have to travel to Israel for a year in order to do the job properly (this was before the Intifada and Oslo Accords were made and Israel was relatively safe).
    She packed her suitcases, promised her parents to be a good girl, call regularly, write once a week and embarked to Israel. Once there she decided she would begin by studying the Arab side of the story and for that purpose made her temporary home in the Arab town of Juljilia not far from Haifa.
    She hired a translator and worked feverishly, interviewing the populace by day and writing her dissertation into the wee hours of the night. But all this time, true to her Jewish roots, she continued to observe a Jewish way of life; Kosher food, Shabbat etc. and never considered otherwise …..
    Then she met an Arab by the name of George.
    George was one of the citizens of Juljilia, but, unlike them, he had been educated in Oxford and had a Masters in … Sociology, exactly her field.  And he was more than glad to help. He was intelligent, kind, warm and handsome fellow, full of compliments and deep insights and was fluent in both English and Arabic.
    At first, he just helped her with her work, but after a while their relationship became increasingly non-academic and as Sarah’s feeling for him grew her connection to Judaism waned.
    The commandments that were once so comforting to her became dry rituals, and Shabbat instead of being a source of rest and spiritual renewal became a cold, empty bore; And so it was with everything else Jewish.
    From her letters and conversations with parents they sensed what was happening and didn’t deny their suspicions. But their suggestions, arguments and pleas that she return home bore no fruit. She had made up her mind; George was her soul-mate! It was so obvious, logical and right!
    Finally, they got married.
    Her parents were devastated. In fact, her mother took it so to heart that she suffered a semi-stroke and her father fell into a depression that made it very difficult for him to function. And so, it continued for years.

    When the Golds heard this sad story from their relatives Mrs. Gold decided maybe there was some way she could help. After all the Lubavitcher Rebbe taught that every Jew is responsible for every other Jew. Indeed, for the entire world! She had to at least give it a try.
    She paid Sarah’s parents a visit, At first, they didn’t want to talk about it, her mother just left the room but finally her father began weeping and poured out his broken heart.  She suggested that perhaps he should write his problem to the Lubavitcher Rebbe but he refused.
    In those days Chabad-Lubavitch and the Rebbe were almost unknown in South Africa. The Jews there were observant but very cold to the Chassidic way and ridiculed the idea of relying on a Rebbe. Especially by long distance.
    But finally, she convinced him that he had nothing to lose and everything to gain. So with no other choice he wrote the Rebbe a letter briefly explaining the problem and asking for a blessing and advice.
    A few weeks later the answer arrived. The Rebbe wrote:

    “Wait for a time when they quarrel. I will pray for success and good news.”

    It made no sense. How could he wait for news from his daughter who hadn’t called for years and lived in some remote Arab town in Israel thousands of miles away?! He didn’t even know the name of the town!
    He told some of his friends about the Rebbe’s answer and it just provided more fuel for their ridicule. People regarded the whole thing as a farce; the Rebbe had never met anyone mentioned in the letter. How could he possibly give advice?
    But Mrs. Gold didn’t take it so lightly. Inspired by the Rebbe’s answer developed a plan. She convinced the girl’s father to obtain for her his daughter’s phone number, the one she called him from last, and after she and her husband returned to Israel she went to the phone, said a prayer and a Psalm and dialed.
    A woman answered. She asked “Is this Sarah?” and waited for a reply.
    “Yes, this is Sarah. Who is this?”
    It was a miracle!

    The conversation was short Sarah only said yes and no but amazingly she didn’t hang up.
    It ended with Mrs. Gold saying, “Look, Sarah, here is my phone number. Write it down. Anytime you want, no matter when or for what reason, you can call me. My house is always open to you.”
    Sarah didn’t say a word, just waited till Mrs. Gold finished speaking and hung up the phone.
    Over a year passed and somehow Mrs. Gold completely forgot about Sarah until late one night, well after midnight, her phone rang.
    It was Sarah calling from a public phone. She was in the city park in Haifa with her two children and eight months pregnant with a third. She and her husband had quarreled and he beat her. It wasn’t the first time. She needed help.

    Mrs. Gold immediately contacted Rabbi Grossman who told her to give his address to Sarah and tell her to take a taxi to his home immediately, at his expense. Then they would decide what to do.
    She arrived, bruised, cold and hungry and the next morning, after a good meal and sleep she broke down and told them the truth.
    After the first child was born George changed. Instead of the kind, warm person she married he became more and more possessive, violent and anti-Semitic. This wasn’t the first time he beat her, although it was the most severe. And now she wanted out.
    For many reasons they decided that the best solution was that she should temporarily return to George and make peace for a few weeks until after she gave birth to this third child. Then she should tell him that she wants to go for a rest with the children for a week or so and in this time, they would engineer a getaway.
    And it worked.

    Today Sarah is far from her mistaken identity, happily married and living a real Jewish life thanks to a strange answer from the Rebbe.

    This answers our questions about mishpatim.

    The Torah is a book of laws, and many of them seem to be logical.
    But our section is telling us that, in fact, every law in the Torah, even the most logical ‘Mishpatim’; because they are the will of G-d, are essentially beyond understanding.
    And conversely, even the most illogical commands, like not mixing milk and meat or Jews and gentiles can be a source of happiness in our daily logical lives.
    As the basic book of Chabad called ‘The Tanya’ teaches: If we properly understand what G-d is, the commandments become the most fulfilling and joyous experience possible.
    That was Sarah’s problem; she had done the commandments but without joy or meaning.
    The reason she even considered intermarriage was because she never really internalized and made logical (Like Mishpatim) the G-dliness and joy of Judaism and the Commandments.
    But it takes a special person to bring this infinite excitement of the Torah into every Jew’s soul and day to day logic. And that is the job of the Rebbe: the Moses of our generation.
    That is why our Torah reading begins with the SINGULAR. G-d was referring to Moses alone!! “When you, MOSES, purchase a Jewish servant.”
    In other words, ONLY Moses can awaken in EVERY Jew the desire to be a ‘Jewish Servant’ of the Creator.
    This is what brought Sarah back home and this is what will bring us and all the Jews back. We just have to take the advice and wisdom of the Rebbe: (especially in his books of Chassidut), reach out to others and open our Jewish eyes.

    Then it could be that just one more good deed, word or even thought will bring a happy meaningful world with…. Moshiach NOW!!

    Rabbi Tuvia Bolton
    Yeshiva Ohr Tmimim
    Kfar Chabad, Israel

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